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If you’re considering divorce, it is natural to hesitate. Emotional upheaval and increased conflict may seem inevitable. You and your spouse may agree on several topics related to the divorce, but may have a few fundamental disagreements. The prospect of court dates, time and costs may be daunting.
If this sounds familiar, collaborative divorce may be an option for you.
Collaborative divorce or collaborative law seeks to put both you and your spouse on the same side of the table as you work through any disagreements regarding your divorce. During a collaborative divorce, you work with lawyers and other professionals as needed in order to create a settlement that upholds the best interests of you, your spouse and your children.
Collaborative divorce can help you reduce the stress and strife of divorce, while producing results that both follow the law and meet your particular needs. Couples may choose to pursue a collaborative divorce in order to:
Before diving into a collaborative divorce, it is best to share the idea with your spouse. If your relationship is cordial, you may do this directly or you may seek the help of a friend or family member. Because collaborative divorce is a voluntary process, it works best when both parties buy in freely. Both you and your partner will choose an attorney if you decide to pursue a collaborative divorce.
Typically, your Raleigh divorce attorney for the collaborative divorce process cannot be the same attorney who goes to court with you if the collaboration fails. This arrangement takes going to court off the table for the duration of the collaborative process. Spouses gain support in working together, and attorneys can focus on supporting the collaboration instead of preparing for an adversarial fight.
Collaborative divorce begins with a document called the “Participation Agreement.” This agreement is typically signed at the first four-way meeting of you, your attorney, your spouse and your spouse’s attorney. It sets ground rules for the collaborative process.
Which rules you need depends on your particular situation. Common ground rules included in the participation agreement include a commitment to fair and open communication, to keeping disagreements between the adults and away from the children and to follow an agreed-upon process for ending the collaboration.
If you are likely to need the help of another neutral expert, like a financial specialist or child specialist, you may also discuss who to choose at the first four-way meeting. You can also discuss a need for specialist help at a later meeting.
During each four-way meeting, the focus should be on resolving issues in a way you and your spouse can accept and that supports your children’s best interests. If you reach a sticking point, asking a neutral mediator to step in is also an option. The mediator’s job is to help you and your spouse find common ground without taking any sides. Some mediators specialize in collaborative divorce mediation. Your attorney or your spouse’s attorney may be able to recommend mediators.
Once the issues are resolved, you, your spouse and your respective attorneys will discuss the best way to implement them. At this point, you may need to file court paperwork simply to make the divorce decisions official. You, your spouse and your lawyers will discuss the best way to accomplish this task while keeping both costs and stress levels as low as possible.
In some situations, spouses simply cannot come to an agreement on an issue. If this is the case, the collaborative process can be ended using the rules set out in the Participation Agreement. Your family lawyer and your spouse’s attorney withdraw from the case, and you are free to pursue litigation.
Attorney Charles R. Ullman is a certified family law specialist with experience in collaborative divorce, mediation and family law arbitration. Because our law firm focuses solely on family law, we can offer a depth of experience and a collegial atmosphere that can help move your collaborative divorce toward productive results.
To learn more, contact our Raleigh family law office today.
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